A child left for dead at birth reappears 15 years later to transform the lives of her parents.

The opening pages of Ferriss’ sixth novel (Leaving the Neighborhood, 2001, etc.) are a harrowing overture to a book that’s soaked with domestic tension. In 1993, Brooke and her boyfriend, Alex, enter a motel to deliver what the high-schoolers are certain will be a stillbirth; the teas prescribed by a hippie-ish family friend of Brooke’s were supposed to ensure that. The first chapter’s visceral depiction of the delivery signals that Ferriss intends to deliver an unflinching study of parenthood, and though the book is overlong and takes some sentimental turns, she largely follows through on that promise. Fifteen years later, Brooke has married another man, Sean, with whom she has a daughter, and their life is outwardly cozy. But Sean’s job at a print shop is foundering and she’s batting away his pleas for another child. As Sean drowns his anger in drink, Brooke reconnects with Alex, who can’t stop hating himself over their parental misadventure. After a series of revelations, the two discover that their child is alive: Alex left her breathing in a crate near the motel’s dumpster, where she was taken in by a working-class Polish-immigrant family. The girl, Najda, has a severe physical disability but is whip-smart; among the novel’s sharpest chapters are those she narrates, full of close observations of her dysfunctional adoptive family and guilt-wracked biological one. Ferriss’ main message is that the truth will always come out, and she often gives this fairly preposterous scenario a convincing, Franzen-style realism. That skill is undercut slightly by a second message that dreams do come true; Ferriss is no Pollyanna, but she ties the bow in ways that feel more comforting than sincere. Despite some too-convenient plot twists, a powerful domestic novel.


Pub Date: Feb. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-425-24556-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: Dec. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2011

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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